Perhaps fearing that security is still compromised at the Bacha Khan International Airport (BKIA), Saudi Airlines has seemingly extended the suspension of its operations and diverted flights landing in the city to Islamabad.
The airline originally suspended operations till July 31 after armed men on the ground fired at a PIA aircraft carrying 178 passengers just as it was about to land at the airport from Riyadh on June 24.
Airport sources told The Express Tribune that the airline seems to have delayed the resumption of operations for another week as Flight SV794, carrying passengers from Jeddah, has been diverted to the federal capital instead of landing at BKIA at 12:30pm on Saturday (today) as scheduled.
Also, Flight SV795, scheduled to depart for Jeddah from Peshawar, will now take off from Islamabad, causing great difficulty for the passengers.
“They informed us about suspending operations soon after the attack, but mentioned nothing of extending the hiatus,” said an airport official requesting anonymity.
He added that BKIA officials had not received any written information in this regard.
When contacted, George Parvez, a Civil Aviation Authority spokesperson, also said they had yet to receive any written information on the Saudi Airlines’ reported decision to extend the suspension of services.
In the wake of the attack on PIA flight PK-756, in which a woman passenger was killed and two crew members injured, a number of international airlines suspended operations out of Bacha Khan Airport. Besides others, these included Saudi Airlines, Emirates, Qatar and Etihad Airways. As a result, people travelling to the Gulf States faced numerous problems.
However, on July 3, CAA officials posted on Twitter that Qatar Airways had resumed flights out of the city.
On July 24, Emirates Airlines also followed suit after a month-long hiatus, with the first flight taking off for Dubai at 8:45am. On the other hand, Saudi Airlines and Etihad Airways are yet to restart operations.
Security at airports remains a major concern as the Peshawar incident came just over two weeks after terrorists with automatic weapons, rocket launchers, suicide vests and grenades attacked Jinnah International Airport in Karachi.
Dozens of people were killed in the attack orchestrated by the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan.
The militant outfit said it carried out the attack to avenge the death of its leader Hakimullah Mehsud who was killed in a drone strike on November 1, 2013.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 2nd, 2014.